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Lot
49221

RARE DODO BIRD SKELETON CAST. ...

2012 May 20 Natural History & Fine Minerals Signature Auction- New York #6068

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Auction Ended On: May 20, 2012
Item Activity: 2 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Center 548
548 W. 22nd St.
New York, NY 10011

Description:
RARE DODO BIRD SKELETON CAST
Raphus cucullatus
Holocene
Mauritius

The Dodo is one of the most emblematic and immediately recognizable creatures in the world, from its fat round body, to the distinctively bulbous, hooked beak. It even has its own catchphrase: dead as a Dodo. For it is the most famously extinct species of modern times. A flightless bird (for lack of predators, and plenty of food) was found only on the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, first recorded by Dutch sailors in 1598. Less than 100 years later, it was extinct. This was due partly to the fact that, having evolved on an island free of predators, it had no fear of the humans who hunted it, nor of the animals the sailors brought with them, such as dogs, pigs and crab-eating Macaques. The flesh of the Dodo was apparently not that great, but everyone loved the eggs. The Dodo's extinction was not realized until the nineteenth century, up to which time the possibility of a species' extinction was held to be dubious science at best, and the plight of Dodo was highly significant in raising awareness of man's deleterious effect on the ecosystem.

In the mere 90 years during which the Dodo had contact with humans, scant remains and records were preserved. There are a few paintings and drawings of the bird, but what few taxidermy mounts were made have long-since perished. Only a handful of museums around the world hold Dodo material, and complete skeletons are extremely rare (it is surmised that there are fewer than five in existence). The specimen in the Royal Ontario Museum, from which this superb cast was made, is complete and exemplary, and has been fully restored to ensure osteological correctness. Cast in polyurethane polymer, this skeleton exhibits the familiar, distinctive skull and beak, the voluminous ribcage, and the long legs that immediately suggest a waddling, comical gait. Also present is the large sternum which would once have been essential to flight; the shrunken wing bones, however, all too starkly evoke the bird's lost ability to escape.

A museum-quality reproduction of an extremely scarce skeleton, of one of the most emblematic species in the world, it is finished with an attractive dark brown patina, mounted on a discrete metal base, and stands 28½ inches high.

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